Acts 13:1-5 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch
certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger,
and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the
tetrarch, and Saul.
2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
4 So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Selucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus.
5 And when they were at Salamis, they preached the Word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister.
These few verses give us the divine order for the ministry of the Church. Notice that there were certain prophets and teachers gathered together at the church in Antioch. And as they were ministering unto the Lord, the Holy Spirit said, “Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” Then they ministered to Saul and Barnabas, laid their hands on them, and sent them out.
The prophets and teachers at Antioch first ministered unto the Lord, then they ministered to Saul and Barnabas, and after that Saul and Barnabas were sent out from the church to minister in other places. So we see that divine order for church ministry is: (1) ministry unto the Lord, (2) ministry to one another, and (3) ministry to the world.
Many churches have reversed the order of ministry. They are more concerned with numbers than ministry unto the Lord. The anointing of the Holy Spirit dissipates when we are more interested in adding names to our membership rolls than ministering unto the Lord. Church ministry will not be successful in accomplishing the will of God if He is not first. The successfulness of a church is not determined by the size of the membership roll; it is determined by the spiritual maturity of its members.
The most important characteristic of any church is its love relationship with the Lord. To love Him and worship Him is the first and foremost ministry of the church. Mark records in his Gospel a scribe coming to Jesus, asking Him which commandment was most important. Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. Mark 12:28-30. God is more interested in the spiritual quality of His people than He is their quantity.
John 4:23-24 But the hour comes, and now is, when the true
worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father
seeks such to worship Him.
24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.
All three aspects of church ministry – worship, Body ministry, and evangelism – are very important, but the most necessary function of the church is ministering unto the Lord. God is looking for worshipers! Jesus said that God was seeking true worshipers, those who knew how to worship Him in spirit and in truth. Do you know why God is seeking worshipers? He is seeking them because there aren’t many of them. There are many Christians; there just aren’t very many real worshipers who worship Him in spirit and in truth.
God is Spirit. He does not communicate with us on the physical or natural plane. In other words, we do not see Him with our natural eyes, or hear Him with our natural ears. We cannot touch Him with our hands. Neither does He communicate, or reveal Himself, to man in the areas of the soul realm. God, being Spirit, communicates in the spirit realm. Therefore He ministers to our spirit. So it is necessary for us to have our spiritual senses exercised and trained to discern His presence and His expressions toward us (Hebrews 5:14). It is only when we learn to minister unto the Lord with our spirit that we worship Him in spirit and in truth. This is why the apostle Paul said in Romans 1:9 that he served God with his spirit.
Psalm 148:1 Praise ye the Lord. Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise Him in the heights.
How are we, who are on earth, expected to worship the Lord from the heavens? What the psalmist is saying here is that we must praise the Lord from our spirit. Very often in the Scriptures the word “heaven” is referring to the realm of spirit. There are many levels of spirit in the spirit realm. Thus the plural “heavens” is sometimes used, as in this verse. “Praise Him in the heights”; that is, worship Him in the higher realms of your spirit. In your worship of the Lord lift your spirit into His presence. The apostle Paul spoke of this, too, when he said, “God hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). When you worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, praising Him in the heights, then you are seated with Him in the heavenly places; and it is then that you experience the Lord inhabiting your praises. But Thou art holy, O Thou that inhabits the praises of Israel. Psalm 22:3.
John 12:32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.
One interpretation of this verse, which is also a very accurate one, is Jesus being lifted up on the cross. His death made a way for people to come unto Him. There is also a spiritual interpretation which is just as true. If He is lifted up in praise and worship, then men will be drawn unto Him. In this sense, we are the earth from which He must be lifted up as King of kings and Lord of lords. We will be true witnesses of the Lord when we learn to worship Him in spirit and in truth. When we have enthroned Him in our hearts, and He inhabits our praises and worship, then men will be drawn unto Him.
The ministry of a church, first and foremost, must be a ministry unto the Lord. Our first purpose for assembling together should be to worship Him, to minister unto Him, and to bless him.
The second most essential ministry of the church is our ministry to one another, and it was the second thing the brethren at the church of Antioch did in our text. The anointing of the Holy Spirit to minister to one another flows out of worship. Notice that it was after they had ministered unto the Lord that the prophetic utterance concerning Barnabas and Saul came by the Holy Spirit. Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. Acts 13:2-3.
Body ministry is essential. The Church cannot do what God wants it to do until it becomes what God wants it to be. That doesn’t mean that the Church won’t do anything while it is maturing, but the consummation of all that the Scriptures have prophesied will be accomplished by the Lord through a mature Body of Christ.
Ephesians 4:11-13 And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and
some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ:
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.
Give special attention to the reasons that God gives these ministries in verse eleven to the Church. Their job is to perfect the saints. Their ministry will create a unity of the faith. They will bring forth the Body of Christ into a knowledge of the Son of God. Most Christians will say that they know the Lord, but this is not talking about that kind of knowledge. This is speaking of a knowledge that only comes as His life comes forth in you. Under these ministries the Body of Christ will become a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. It becomes quite obvious that these ministries – apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers – are cut from a different cloth than the majority of ministers in the church-world today.
One pastor’s excuse was that they didn’t have a prophet in their church. “Have you been praying, asking the Lord to send you a prophet?” I asked. The pastor answered, “No, we haven’t.” It didn’t take much discernment to realize he didn’t really want a prophet in his church. A real prophet would have brought the people under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and the pastor would have lost his little kingdom. How many deacon boards do you think would be willing to relinquish their position over the church to the Lord Jesus Christ? Some churches are ruled by the pastor, some are ruled by the deacon/trustee board, some are ruled by the oldest family in the church, but very few are under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. One of the first things that will have to be done by the ministries that the Lord gives is the elimination of man-rule over the churches.
Ephesians 4:14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.
When the ministries under the Lordship of Jesus Christ are ministering to the church, the people do not remain children; they progress spiritually unto maturity. When man is over the church there is no spiritual growth. Their numbers may increase, but they remain children spiritually. God does not want His people tossed to and fro, carried about by every wind of doctrine. The true ministries of the Lord have only one doctrine, the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And every truth, every concept, every precept, every interpretation flows out of that. Everything they teach makes disciples of Jesus Christ. The teachings of man, on the other hand, make disciples of a religious organization, and each religious organization has its own “wind of doctrine.”
Ephesians 4:15-16 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into Him
in all things, which is the Head, even Christ:
16 From whom the whole Body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the Body unto the edifying of itself in love.
Verse 16 presents another major difference between man-made church organizations and the Body of Christ. In most churches today the congregations are spectators. The members of the Body of Christ, on the other hand, are participators. They have a ministry, too. The whole Body is fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the Body unto the edifying of itself in love. This is Body ministry, and it takes second place only to our ministry of worship unto the Lord.
Spiritual ministry begets spiritual ministry. With that in mind let’s take a look at the ministries in verse 11: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. There is only one apostle, the Lord Jesus Christ. Hebrews 3:1 says that He is “the Apostle and High Priest of our profession.” Everyone, though, that He ministers through as the Apostle has an apostolic ministry. In like manner there is only one prophet, the Lord Jesus Christ. And everyone He ministers through as the Prophet has a prophet’s ministry. The same is true for evangelist, pastor and teacher. When He ministers through someone as an evangelist or pastor or teacher, then they have that kind of ministry. So, you see, a real ministry is one through which the Lord ministers.
Because spiritual ministry begets spiritual ministry, the members of the Body of Christ become like those through whom the Lord ministers, too. This principal is first set forth in the first chapter of Genesis where it says that everything brings forth after its own kind (Genesis 1:11,21,24-27). Then Isaiah 24:2, in a confirming voice, says that the people will be like the priest. If Christ is ministering through the ministers, then the people will also become a ministry of His presence and life. The whole church becomes a ministry, each “joint supplying according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, making increase of the Body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
The divine order for church ministry is first ministry unto the Lord, second is ministry within the Body, and thirdly ministry to the outside world. The reason for such order is obvious. God always has to be first. Worshiping Him in spirit and in truth is more important than anything else. Ministry within the Body must come next, or the people will not be prepared to minister unto others. Divine order of church ministry is an order of importance, not just an order of sequence. All three phases of ministry should function simultaneously.
The argument of some is that those who give emphasis upon Body ministry often neglect the commission to “go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). There is some validity to that argument. There have been some that have become very inclusive. That argument, though, usually comes from those who are unable to bring their church into spiritual maturity. Far more churches have erred by placing the supreme importance upon evangelism at the expense of worship and Body ministry.
Don’t get the idea that evangelism is unimportant. God’s will cannot be accomplished without it. And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. Matthew 24:14. The Gospel of the Kingdom shall be ministered unto all nations. His Kingdom will prevail over all other kingdoms. And it will be accomplished by the Lord through His many-membered Body, a people who first learned to worship Him in spirit and in truth, a people who became a perfect man unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, because every joint supplied according to the effectual working of every member.
Copyright © 1998 by Henry DuBose